So Many Funeral Directors Do Not Get It. But One Does!

| Grief Expert and Counselor

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So Many Funeral Directors Do Not Get It. But One Does!There are so many funeral directors who do not care about the families they serve. They should choose another profession! They don’t get it! Serving families in their greatest time of hurt requires empathy and compassion and too many funeral directors are in it for the money. They do not want to take time with the family. They do not want to guide the family through the funeral process, and they certainly do not consider themselves–nor want to be– the “death care expert”. Yet, that is exactly what they should be—that should be their goal. They should reach out into the community to let others know that when anything happens in the area of death, dying, and grief, they will be there to offer assistance and help. And, since everyone dies, the funeral director should be one of the best known people in the community.

When I speak to funeral directors, I hear all about the shrinking profit margins, an uneducated consumer, and families that want to buy caskets at Costco. Yet, there is no plan in place at the national, state, or local level to address these problems. If you are not a part of the solution then you are a part of the problem. Funeral directors need to take back their profession, they need to educate the consumer, they need to become the death care expert, they need to promote the traditional American funeral full of rituals, they need to continually “upgrade” the educational requirements to become a funeral director, and more than anything—they need to start and end their services to the family with compassion.

Here are just a few of many questions you can ask when you are thinking about a funeral or talking with a funeral director:

  • can you meet with the funeral director and discuss a funeral without being pressured to “buy” something?
  • will the funeral director help me plan an appropriate funeral that is sensitive to my budget?
  • does the funeral home offer follow-up counseling and support groups for my family without charge?
  • does the funeral home bury children for free?
  • what is the funeral home doing in the community to educate the general public about funeral service?
  • will the funeral let me plan a funeral in advance and not take any money?
  • if I want to pre-pay a funeral, does the funeral home offer different insurance plans?

Now, the rest of this article you need to read very carefully. THERE IS ONE, AND I KNOW MANY MORE FUNERAL DIRECTORS WHO DO GET IT.

Some years ago I counseled a little girl (7 years old) after her mother died in a car accident. Dad was in the waiting room overwhelmed with grief himself, but on this day his concern was for his daughter. I ask her how her mother died and she proceeded to give me all the details of the car accident. She described how her mother pulled out in front of another car, and the other car (going fast) hit her right on the driver’s door. She said they “cut” her mother out of the car and took her to the hospital, but she was already dead, as she said, “with God in heaven”. I noticed that as she was telling me this story—she did not cry. Granted, it had been 8 months since her mother died, but I thought to re-visit the death might make her sad and cause her to cry. So I ask her, “have you told anyone else this story? She said, “yes”. I said, “who”? She said, the funeral man”. I said, “the funeral director”? She said, “yes”. I then ask her if she cried when she told him the story, she replied, “I cried a lot”. Then I ask the most important question of the session, “what did he do when you started to cry?. She glanced over to my conference table where there was a box of facial tissue, and she said. “he went and got some Kleenex and got down on his knees and wiped away my tears”. WOW. I had to get up and leave my desk for a moment. I was captured by her honesty and the funeral directors compassion. I then came back to her and said, “he was a pretty special guy wasn’t he”. She responded, “yeah, I liked him a lot. She will forever remember that funeral director and always believe that a funeral home and a funeral director are “good” things in life. All because, ONE FUNERAL DIRECTOR “GOT IT”.


| Grief Expert and Counselor

Dr. John D. Canine, Ed.D., Ph.D. is a noted author, professional speaker, educator and leading expert on grief and bereavement. He is currently the CEO of Maximum Living Consultants, Inc. and he...